Some words you usually don't hear in the same sentence: "Luckily, I was abruptly laid off from my job."
Anthony Saladino, 29, had that kind of lottery-winning, just-lucky-I-guess good fortune come to him courtesy of the kitchen cabinetry retail showroom where he worked in sales and design. In 2010, he took his knowledge of the cabinetry business, plus $20,000 of his own money, and launched Kitchen Cabinet Kings, an Internet-only distributor of kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
There's nothing revolutionary about selling kitchen and bathroom cabinets, or about selling them online. But more good business ideas are founded on an improvement rather than a revolution. "I knew that if our website was designed with user friendliness in mind that people would make cabinet purchases online just like they would in a retail store," Saladino said.
The company had first-year sales of $460,000, breaking even after six months in business, and projects 2011 sales of just over $1 million. The company is nicely profitable. "In our first year of business, our revenue exceeded our start-up costs by 20 times," Saladino noted. But that doesn't mean everything has done smoothly. Saladino says he made a couple of mistakes.
- Hiring friends. "This was a mistake. They expected higher salaries, work conflicts lead to personal problems, and there was a lackadaisical work ethic."
- Not aggressively targeting industry professionals. "A high percentage of our sales are individuals or small contractors. We are missing out on the huge commercial project market run by large scale contractors, builders and property management groups."
- Installation services. "In the beginning, we offered customers in my local area [Staten Island, NY] installation services. This led to a host of problems mainly due to unreliable contractors, who had poor workmanship, didn't provide the same quality customer service as our office, and additional logistic and coordination responsibilities. We quickly figured out that this service was not profitable and removed it in order to concentrate on what we do best."
Despite the mistakes, he did some things exactly right:
- All in the family. "My brother is an integral part of the company's success because of his expertise in computer programming, social media and search engine optimization."
- Website usability. "We spent countless hours designing the website to function as easily as possible from the user standpoint. We streamlined the E-Commerce purchase process which resulted in many automated sales.
- Keeping an open mind. "We are always open to new ideas and are constantly evolving our business and website to improve efficiency and customer satisfaction. We have implemented many upgrades to our service by reaching out to our customers to provide us honest feedback."
Kitchen Cabinet Kings is a member of the Young Entrepreneur Council (Y.E.C.), an invitation-only nonprofit organization comprised of promising young entrepreneurs. The Y.E.C promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to youth unemployment and underemployment and provides its members with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of a business's development and growth. This is part of an occasional series reporting on some of its members.